Review by Phediuk

Reviewed: 03/30/06

Another day, another SNES shooter.

Taito, like every other company in the early 90s, wanted to jump on the scrolling shooter bandwagon. It was the newest fad in the game industry! Part of the reason for this was because scrolling shooters are very easy games to program: no physics! Extremely linear gameplay (which makes bug testing a cinch)! Simple game mechanics! Only about eight levels are required to satisfy players! And what's more, those players loved them! What's not to love about scrolling shooters?

...Well, the severe lack of innovation in them is always a problem. Therefore, each company came up with its own unique gimmick for their shooter series. The Option system for Gradius, the Force Pod for R-Type, the World War II theme of 1942 and its sequels...but Darius dared to be even more different. Not just one, not just two, but an astounding three gimmicks wormed their way into Taito's new game. The first, and most obvious, was the massive screen, which was three times wider than a regular arcade monitor. This did draw some oooooh's and aaaaah's from crowds at first, but soon afterwards, everyone was turned off by Darius' rather unremarkable gameplay.

It is with a not-so-heavy heart that I tell you that Darius Twin, an SNES game very similar to--but not a direct port of--the original Darius, has been shrunk down to fit within the confines of your TV screen. The other two trademarks of the Darius series, however, are still displayed as proudly as ever.

Nonlinear level progression? Darius Twin has it. On several occasions, you'll get to choose between two (and at one point, even three!) different levels, meaning you'll have to play through the game at least three time to see all twelve. But don't get too excited; all of the levels you choose between are only slightly modified palette swaps of each other. Still, it's nice to know that Taito at least put in a half-assed effort where other developers didn't even try.

Of course, the most famous trait of the Darius series is its rather bizarre rogue's gallery--to get to the point, all of your enemies are either robotic fish or robotic forms of other marine animals. You'll battle little guppies and manta rays, etc., but as with many shooters, the bosses are the highlight here. Giant crabs, lobsters, squids...hell, the final boss is a goddamn walrus. If that isn't badass, I don't know what is.

The fish-themed enemies of Darius Twin give the game something many other shooters lack: personality. The game's graphics are bright and colorful, and the often ridiculous animations of the bosses (the lobster robot fires its pincers out like rockets) always entertain. And speaking of bosses, how many other games announce the arrival of one with a message stating "A HUGE BATTLESHIP IS APPROACHING FAST"? Because Darius Twin never takes itself too seriously, it feels refreshingly unpretentious compared to most other space shooters. It feels like a recipe for a great shooter.

...But that's only until you realize how bland the gameplay is. As Darius Twin has exactly the same play mechanics as its arcade counterpart, being a standard horizontally-scrolling shmup, don't expect anything very exciting here. Your ship has only two weapons at its disposal: a straightforward laser beam and a diagonal shot. Both of them can be fired at any time, and there's separate buttons for firing them. Hold down both buttons and the two guns will fire simulataneously. Since there's no penalty for doing this, there's no reason not to use both weapons all the time, letting you effortlessly plow through every part of the game except the bosses.

Both of your weapons can be upgraded several times by collecting the appropariate powerups, but no matter how powerful it becomes, your diagonal shot is almost completely useless due to its very slow fire rate. Not that it matters much, as aside from the bosses, your enemies are total pushovers; 9/10 of them can easily be killed within a second of flying onscreen.

Which brings me to my next point: Darius Twin is a bit too easy. And believe me, it's not often I get to say that about a scrolling shooter. In an unusual move, the game lets you keep all of your powerups after dying, which takes some tension away from the gameplay. Even though you're sent all the way back to the beginning of the game upon a game over, this (surprisingly) isn't a big deal: Darius Twin won't take more than a half hour or so to complete, and seeing the alternate levels, cheap palette swaps though they may be, make playing through the whole game again significantly less irritating.

And of course, no review of a scrolling shooter would be complete without addressing the soundtrack (always an important element for a good shooter), and in this department, Darius Twin is a bit of a mixed bag. The tunes here sound like rejected tracks from Mega Man X, featuring highly-similar-sounding synth guitars and cheesy rumbling bass. Some are catchy, like the first and last level themes; others sound a bit screechy, and thus are a tad obnoxious (like the music accompanying most of the game's bosses.)

For the most part, Darius Twin feels like another game off the shooter assembly line. While it does provide some amusing moments, the game won't change your life; instead, it does exactly what it sets out to do: provide an enjoyable shooter experience to distract you for awhile. Don't expect anything earth-shattering, but if one goes into Darius Twin with an open mind, you should find it to be a decent shoot-'em-up.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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